5 of the Best Isometric Ab Exercises — All You Have to Do Is Hold Steady

Isometric exercises like the side plank are great for your abs.
Image Credit: Zinkevych/iStock/GettyImages

Most of the exercises you do in a workout involve movement — squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench presses, shoulder presses, etc. But there's also a subset of exercises that require no movement at all. Those are called isometric exercises.

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The most common example is a plank. Your core muscles work to keep your body hovering over the ground in one straight line from head to hips to heels. There's no motion, but your muscles are definitely working.

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So when you've done all the crunches, Russians twists and V-ups that your abs can handle, incorporate one of these five isometric ab exercises, recommended by personal trainer April Whitney, into your core routine. It'll take less than a minute before you really start to feel the burn.

1. Palloff Press Hold

1. Palloff Press Hold
Image Credit: April Whitney/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level All Levels
Type Strength
Region Core
  1. Anchor one end of a resistance band to a doorknob or cabinet, choosing an anchor point that's at chest height. Stand sideways, left shoulder facing the anchor.
  2. With the free end of the band in hand, stand a few feet away from the anchor, creating a tension in the band. Hold the band in clasped hands right below your chest.
  3. On an exhale, press the band away from your body, fully extending your arms.
  4. Hold for 10 seconds, then bring the hands back to your body.
  5. Once you finish the reps on this side, repeat the exercise facing the other direction.

2. Bird Dog

2. Bird Dog
Image Credit: April Whitney/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Beginner
Type Strength
Region Core
  1. Start on all fours with your hands directly beneath your shoulders, knees in line with your hips.
  2. Keeping your neck long and back neutral, raise your right arm straight in front of you.
  3. At the same time, extend your left leg straight behind your body, keeping your hips squared to the ground.
  4. Hold for 10 seconds.
  5. Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.

Tip

Keep the spine neutral and hips squared, Whitney says. You want this motion to be as controlled as possible. Avoid rocking your body back and forth. To make this exercise easier, just raise one limb at a time (one arm or one leg).

3. Hollow Hold

3. Hollow Hold
Image Credit: April Whitney/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Intermediate
Type Strength
Region Full Body
  1. Lie on your back with arms extended overhead, legs straight out.
  2. Lift into a hollow position by raising your arms, head, shoulders and legs off the ground and pulling your belly button into your spine.
  3. Keep the lower back pressed into the ground and head in line with the arms.
  4. Hold here for 10 seconds and work your way up as you grow stronger.

4. Deadbug

4. Deadbug
Image Credit: April Whitney/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level All Levels
Type Strength
Region Core
  1. Start lying flat on your back with your spine against the floor.
  2. Raise your arms up toward the ceiling in line with your shoulders.
  3. Bring the legs up into a tabletop position, knees bent at 90 degrees, shins parallel to the ground. This is the starting position.
  4. Lower your right arm to the side of your head, hovering just above the floor. Simultaneously, extend the left leg, lowering it toward the ground.
  5. Hold here for a moment with limbs hovering above the floor.
  6. Then, return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.

Tip

Keep your back flat agains the floor as you perform this exercise. To modify, keep your knees bent and tap your heels to the ground, Whitney says.

5. Bear Plank

5. Bear Plank
Image Credit: April Whitney/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Intermediate
Type Strength
Region Full Body
  1. Start on all fours with your hands directly beneath your shoulders, knees in line with your hips.
  2. Press into your palms and toes to raise your knee 2 inches off the floor, drawing your belly button toward your spine.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds, then lower back down and repeat.

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